Holy schnikes people are going all "Ron Burgandy in a phone booth because the bad man punted Baxter" about Big Ten expansion right now. People- CALM DOWN. Get ahold of yourself. Ed Harkin is not going to put Corningstone on the air, not anytime soon anyway. Baxter is still in his jammies, he's still a little tiny budda all covered in hair, and he's probably just eaten the entire wheel of cheese AND pooped in the refrigerator. I'm not even mad- that's amazing! Seriously, Baxter is fine. Calm down.
When the Big Ten announced before Christmas that they were considering expansion and were going to take up to 18 months to study the prospects, people have been freaking out. And hey, expansion is exciting and awesome and could be an amazingly great thing for the conference. But let's remember one thing here: 18 months. 18 months! And what month are we in now? Roughly month four since the announcement. Let me do some quick and dirty math and calculate... yep we still have roughly 14 FREAKING MONTHS until The Big Ten has said they'll make a decision. That's more than a year away. When the conference says they're going to take 18 months to get this thing figured out and done right, why can't we just take them at their word?
Apparently we can't because it seems like every month we have a new slam-dunk candidate that's THIS close to being the 12th member: first it was Missouri, then Pittsburgh was signed sealed and delivered, and now it's freaking Rutgers. It started when Teddy Greestein in the Chicago Tribune had "inside sources" who say Rutgers is the front runner. Adam Rittenberg has a video post up on his blog about the candidacy of Rutgers.
Rutgers? Really? A very good academic institution with gawd-awful athletics who CANNOT land the New York market for the conference? Their resume and legitimacy is about as thin as our previous candidates in Missouri and Pittsburgh. Law Buck has an excellent post on the non-candidacy of the Scarlet Knights on TRE right now, and Frank the Tank has about 10,000 hours worth of excellent reading on this, and every other possible angle on the Big Ten Expansion topic.
What you'll find both men saying in a very well though and logical manner, is that all of this is posturing. The Big Ten is not going to make any decision right now, and despite how fun it is to guesstimate who will be the next to join the conference, it's not happening anytime soon because, you know, the Big Ten has an 18 month timeline and believe it or not, they're sticking to it.
Another point I want to make, which is basically just parroting what Frank the Tank has already said, and continues to say, is that this whole thing is all about two schools: Texas and Notre Dame. That's it. That's all. Jermo is definitely the poker expert on this site, yet I'm going to use the analogy that this is really all one big poker game: The Big Ten is sitting with the most chips, and Texas and Notre Dame have the second biggest piles. Everybody at the table knows this. This is a poker game between these three to see if they can't strike a deal that can make three very, very rich corporations substantially richer. All parties involved in this know that the Big Ten can make both Texas and Notre Dame substantially more money than they're getting in their current situations, and that both of those fine academic institutions either by themselves or together can make the Big Ten substantially more money than any other candidate, or combination of candidates, the conference could add.
This is not rocket science. It's not. Everybody knows this, but just because they know it doesn't mean it's going to happen right away- or at all. There are negotiations going on here, more public than privately at the moment, and both sides know there's no hurry at the moment. They are posturing, and that is all.
News spilled last week that the Big Ten had an independent research firm investigate between five and fifteen schools to see whether they'd be a good fit. Two schools not on the list? Texas and Notre Dame. People then went all Burgandy on the bit yelling and pointing and chugging milk as they ran (which, as we all know, was a bad choice) saying how it was ridiculous to even mention these two and there's no way they'd leave their current situations and this puts the final dagger in their candidacy.
Frank the Tank, as he has done all along, went ahead and shot that idea full of holes. He said the reason this information was leaked was simply as a very public message to the Mighty Texans and the Mighty Catholics that goes something like this...
"Hey, it's the Big Ten. How are things? Hopefully super swell. So listen, we've been doing some research. As you know, all 11 members of our conference made at least $10 million more than you did last year in TV revenue. Yeah that's right bitches- Northwestern made more than you! Sucks doesn't it? Anywho, as you've no doubt been told, you could make that much, and probably a lot more by joining us. But here's the thing: our smart-guy lawyer research type guys? They've just told us that while we can make the most money by adding you, we can still make a boatload by adding just about anybody else. No really, we can. Like Rutgers. Hahaha ok we can all have a good laugh about the ridiculousness of Rutger's candidacy. We know, it won't come close to delivering the New York market, and unless the Yankees or Knicks start playing college football you're never going to get a ton of people in that city to care. But still, they can make us more money. So could Syracuse, Pitt, and a bunch of others we leaked to the Teddy at the Tribune. It's all true. So yeah, I guess what we're saying in a round about way is you need us more than we need you. You've got our number. Thanks for your time. We're going to go back to swimming in our Scrooge McDuck-style money bin."
You get the idea. As Frank the Tank said in his post "you don't need a research firm to tell you Notre Dame and Texas are the best candidates." Really, you don't. I also like his belief that this list could also be used to pick a 14th school if they were forced to take Texas A&M along with the Horns. A good theory for sure.
What is not a good theory is that Texas (please read this article from Frank the Tank that shoots down every single possible argument against Texas joining the Big Ten. Seriously, every single one) and Notre Dame don't make sense and wouldn't join. I'm not guaranteeing they WILL join, I'm just saying they make by far the most sense, and until the process is officially completed and the Big Ten adds a school(s) that are NOT the Longhorns or Irish, only then will they be out of the running. Until then, the poker game continues.